'Sustained campaign of strikes' if bus worker demands are not met
Bus drivers have threatened sustained strike action in the weeks ahead, as businesses estimate that seven planned days of industrial action could cost up to €20m.
SIPTU drivers at Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have voted to strike for four days next month.
The workers will stage two 48-hour strikes on Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, and Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), as well as intending to strike on those four days, says it plans a further three days of action on May 29, 30 and 31.
One of the strike days will also coincide with disruption of the rail service to north Dublin, with track works between Connolly and Howth/Malahide from May 2 to 4.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Owen Reidy, SIPTU Utilities and Construction Division Organiser, warned a "sustained campaign" of industrial action is planned if the impasse continues.
"You can be sure there will be further action if we can't get a resolution - there will have to be. We thought it was prudent to start with four days and see how it develops.
"Our statement last week was very clear; we wanted to use the 10 days as a window to try to move things forward.
"But if that failed, we were of the view that we would need a sustained campaign of industrial action, to try and make real progress. The four days of strikes are the start of that. The ballot we took was for industrial action and strike action. We have a mandate for both."
He said it was "outrageous" that having taken a "moderate approach" to prevent industrial action by seeking direct talks with both bus companies, the union has been met with such "intransigence".
He insisted the National Transport Authority has failed to deal with drivers' concerns over working conditions and job security.
Retailers angry at the massive financial impact the disruption will cause should direct their "ire towards Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann management."
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe issued a fresh appeal to unions to call off their planned industrial action, asking them to accept his assurances about work and conditions. He warned the action will cause "widespread disruption" and impact negatively on the fragile economic recovery.
"I believe these strikes will cause too much difficulty to the companies and the people who rely on those services. I have also given a commitment to seek an increase in subvention funds into the future to enable expansion in the years ahead."
The strikes are in protest against Government plans to put 10pc of routes out for private tender.
Retail group Dublin Town said the timing couldn't be worse, as the economy begins to show signs of revival.
Richard Guiney, Dublin Town CEO, warned the financial impact for retailers could be as much as €20m, given the large numbers of shoppers who use bus transport.
"If it's over seven days, we're looking at an overall cost of anything between €15m and €20m to businesses. We'd like all parties to take a step back and look at the serious ramifications this will have on the general economy."
Bus Éireann management said it has responded to every request to participate in the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) discussions, adding that it would "strongly urge" the trade unions to reconsider.